Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Confusing Fall Blackpoll Warbler

 With the driving rain, high winds and forecast thunderstorms ahead, I am maximizing my time this morning by working through some of my photos. I have assimilated a number of images taken in the spring and within the last week to illustrate the confusing look of the Blackpoll Warbler.
 The Spring breeding plumage of the Blackpoll, both female and male, makes for an easy ID.
 To me, the elongated shape and typical posture of this species also makes it easy for me to separate them from the other common warblers of Newfoundland.
 Spring passes, breeding ends and transitions begin.
 To me, the Blackpoll Warbler is one of the most confusing of the fall warblers.
 A lot of things are going on at this time. The adults are molting, and the juvenile Blackpolls are just coming into their own. Note this photo: Even the wing bars seem to disappear.
 Add in the wet weather, and the Blackpoll can look like a totally different bird. I find the elongated shape is constant, but one of the best ways to nail a Blackpoll ID is by the color of their legs and feet.
 The Blackpoll warbler is one of the few warblers that has yellow legs and feet.
 Sometimes, the Blackpoll can look really yellow. It is always a good idea to scrutinize all yellowish warbler seen at this time of the year. It just could be something rare, but most of the time... it is a Blackpoll.
 Note the feet on this bird. They have not yet become bright yellow. Nevertheless, they are more pale than many other warblers. I wonder if this is an immature that has not yet fully developed the yellow legs.
 Even the most effective way of identifying a Blackpoll can even be confusing in the fall.
I really think the best way to identify a Blackpoll is to apply a holistic approach relating to color, markings, shape, call and leg color. Even then, don't be surprised if you see a Blackpoll different from all of those pictured here. I have felt more than a little daft over and over again when I send a picture of an unknown warbler to the experienced birders for help, only to learn it is yet another Blackpoll Warbler. It has happened to me twice already this season:)

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